Pol Valera: “Granollers have given me everything”
Having lost their last two matches after starting the EHF European League Men group phase with three straight wins, Fraikin BM. Granollers are trying to get back to winning ways while hosting unbeaten group C leaders RK Nexe on Tuesday. The Spanish side’s hopes are on centre back and top scorer Pol Valera.
Granollers had their winning start to the season ended by Skjern Håndbold in round 4, and suffered another away defeat in round 5 last week, going down 39:36 against Nexe in Croatia.
The same opponents are visiting Granollers for the start of the second half of the group phase on Tuesday (live on EHFTV at 20:45 CET).
“This is a great opportunity to settle scores at home,” says Pol Valera, Granollers’ centre back and top scorer this group phase with 35 goals.
“The whole team is looking forward to playing European matches at home again. We narrowly lost the last two games away and I am convinced this is a great motivation. With the help of our fans, we will fight to pick up the two points.”
Granollers are currently ranked second in group C with six points; four behind leaders Nexe, who have won all five matches.
Valera is aware Granollers have a high mountain to climb on Tuesday.
“Nexe are a top team. Last year, they played in the EHF Finals. They compete very well during the 60 minutes and all the players contribute a lot to the team,” Valera says. “In defence, they are physically very big and tough, and they have an excellent goalkeeper.”
After the high-scoring 39:36 defeat last week, Valera knows what Granollers need to do differently this time.
“One of our points to improve is being able to block their counterattack as they run a lot and are very dynamic,” the centre back says.
Granollers are a club with a rich handball history in Spain. They won the EHF Cup in 1996, played the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2010, and reached the EHF Cup Finals in 2016.
After losing to Kadetten Schaffhausen in the decisive qualification round last year, Granollers are making their debut in the group phase of the EHF European League this season. Their first match – a 30:25 away win at Balatonfüredi KSE in Hungary – featured a stunning 14-goal outing from Valera.
“We are very happy and focused. Switching between two competitions – the Liga ASOBAL and the EHF European League – is not easy for a squad like ours, as the physical and mental burden is very high,” says the 24-year-old Valera, referring to Granollers’ young squad.
After beating Sporting CP (32:29) and Alpla HC Hard (38:28), Tuesday’s game against Nexe will be third at home.
“So far, we have won all games at home and apart from the game in Denmark where we were not at our best level, the team is competing very well,” Valera says.
In Granollers, handball is very important and has a great tradition. And as handball is a minority sport in our country, it is very rewarding for those who love this sport to find girls and boys playing handball in the streets wearing our club’s jersey.
The centre back has been with Granollers since starting his senior career in 2017, arriving from Club Handbol La Garriga in his hometown. Last year he made his debut in the Spanish national team.
“Granollers have given me everything. Since I was a little boy, my dream has been to become a professional handball player and this team has trained me and given me the values to achieve it,” Valera says.
“In this city, handball is very important and has a great tradition. And as handball is a minority sport in our country, it is very rewarding for those who love this sport to find girls and boys playing handball in the streets wearing our club’s jersey.”
Granollers’ squad includes 10 players of age 23 or younger, including Pol Valera’s younger brother Biel Valera, who is also a centre back.
There is a lot of talent in this team, and this talent meets great ambitions.
“We want to finish the group phase in the best possible place, so that we have more chances of getting through the next knockout stages,” Valera says.
“I am confident that, if we compete at our best level, we have a chance to go far.”
The question is: how far?
“Right now, my biggest dream would be to play the EHF Finals with Granollers,” Valera says. “In the future, I would love to play in the EHF Champions League and participate with the Spanish national team in major international competitions.”